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Asheville City Schools Students Are Creating Project for NASA Mission

Shoot for the moon, and you may just design an experiment that goes to space.  At least that’s the case for a group of Asheville City Schools students. 

     Last semester, SILSA and Asheville High Schoolers entered into NASA’s Tech Rise Student Challenge, a national competition where students of all ages would have the opportunity to place an experiment they built onto a high-altitude balloon that will launch into space next year.

     The team of Ella Murphy, Graham Hunter, John Nuss, Dylan Black and Burlton Sober from Dr. Nick Rigas’ Advanced Engineering Class is one of just 57 groups from across the nation to have their proposal selected by NASA. 

     “To be honest, we were pleasantly surprised to find out we were chosen,” explained Rigas.  “The news traveled fast through social media with parents and school administrators equally excited when they heard the news.” 

     The winning team’s experiment relates to climate change and environmental stewardship.  

     With the increase of wildfires in the Upper Midwest from Idaho to the Dakotas coupled with pollutants caused by fracking, students are examining whether these toxins are interacting to generate other, more hazardous compounds in our atmosphere.   

     The students are designing an experiment that will go up into the upper atmosphere. They are working with NASA engineers to design, build and execute a unique experiment designed to support them in answering the question laid out in their proposal.

     As part of their win, students received $1,500 to make their proposal a reality. They are also working with a NASA engineering team to determine a schedule as well as examine current constraints, their objectives and what they anticipate to be their overall deliverables.  

     “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for these students to work as a team designing a unique experiment with NASA engineers and then watch their work be part of a NASA mission. We are extremely proud of our students. Many thanks to NASA,” said Asheville High School Principal Derek Edwards and SILSA Principal Nicole Cush in a joint statement. 

     Rigas agreed, adding, “This is a real-world engineering experience for them. It will be an amazing opportunity for this group of students that all want to pursue a career in engineering or the sciences.” 

     Their NASA experiment is the team's sole assignment this semester. They will deliver their  project to NASA this summer. The high-altitude balloon, which will include their project, is anticipated to launch into space sometime in 2023. 

     “It’s a very unique experience to be working on a project for NASA,” said Burlton Sober, a Junior at Asheville High School.  “I love that we have this opportunity because this will be an amazing engineering experience.”